“Christ has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but His by essence and by nature.” – St. Cyril of Alexandria.
My dearly beloved brethren, may the Grace, Mercy and Peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, be with you all.
The flight of the secular year has already touched the penultimate month [November] signalling the imminent close of the year, 2016. In similar fashion, the Ecclesiastical calendar, on the 20th of this month will mark the end of the liturgical year as well as the beginning of the new one. Interestingly, the Extra-ordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy convoked last year on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception will see its culmination this year on the solemnity of Christ the Universal King. This is a grand fusion with a deep spiritual insight, that we not only celebrate the king of glory and peace but also the king of Mercy.
At this very early stage, may I use this medium to beckon on those who have not availed themselves this glorious moment of healing and mercy within this Jubilee Year to approach the throne of Mercy with haste. God waits patiently for each one of us as glaringly seen in the parable of the Merciful Father, who spots his lost son from a distance while anticipating his return; he runs to him, embraced him and kissed him. Let us take counsel from the words of one of the most illustrious Fathers and Doctors of the Church in the West, St. Ambrose, who spurs us to make this bold reconciliation with haste to our first Love, for he says: “Let us hurry to the Father. Let us not fear because we have squandered the inheritance of spiritual dignity that we received… Already meeting you on the way, he falls on your neck, ‘for the Lord sets the fallen right.’ He will give you a kiss, that is, the pledge of piety and love.”
Christ is King: “My Kingdom is not of this World”
In the Annunciation episode, the angel Gabriel explained to Mary regarding the child she carried within her; “He will be great and called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there will be no end.” [Lk 1:32-33]. This substantiates the many Biblical Prophecies that had been given by various prophetic books concerning the kingship of Jesus [see 2 Sam 7:12-13; Jer 23:5; Isa. 9:6; Dan 2:44].
Reading the Gospel of John 18:36, Jesus confirms before Pilate that He is a King; however, he is a king with a difference because he says: “my kingdom is not of this world.” Although His kingdom is not of the world, it is in the world. Jesus does not depend on secular power as worldly kingdoms do, but on divine supremacy since “He rules not by physical force in the conquest of nations, but by the conquest of minds and hearts by means of divine grace. His Kingdom [the Church] is indeed in the world, but its purpose, its power, and its means of conquest are of the spiritual order, and ordained for their final fulfilment in the world to come.” The two kingdoms are diametrically opposed to one another considering the principles of operation of each kingdom and what it confers on its subjects.
As Scripture says, “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” [Col 1:13-14], so the Lord Jesus in obedience to the Father came as King to conquer Satan and his kingdom which was set up at the fall of Adam, thereby unshackling humanity from his chains and dominion, and establishing on earth the reign of God’s kingdom made up of the redeemed.
The King of Mercy
Jesus is truly the King of Mercy. Looking through the sacred Scriptures we see how very well the words of blind Bartimaeus are evocative of this truth. While Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, he passed through the city of Jericho wherein Bartimaeus dwelt. Upon knowledge of the passing by of Jesus, he cries out in a loud tone, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” [Mk 10:46-52]. ‘The Son of David’ alludes to the kingship of Jesus as promised by God to David through the Prophet Nathan [see 2 Sam 7: 12-16]. Listen again to Bartimaeus’ words; “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me,” he makes a bold acclamation [“Jesus, Son of David”] that is, Jesus, you are the King! Only then does he beg for the one thing the king alone could grant him [Mercy]. Each and every one of us in like manner as Bartimaeus, use his very words to ask pardon during the penitential rite of the Divine Liturgy when we say ‘Christe Eleison’, that is, Jesus the king, the anointed one, the Messiah, have mercy on me.
From the beginning to the end of the Bible with especial reference to the experiences of the Israelites, we clearly see that the manifestation of God’s mercy is occasioned by human misery. The Bible is awash with dramatic instances of the expression of God’s mercy seen grandly in the action of Jesus whom is the visibility of the Father; “… to have seen me is to have seen the Father” [Jn 14:9]. Matthew’s account of the post resurrection appearance of Jesus in Galilee is significant in underscoring avidly the sovereignty of Jesus; “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” [Mt 28:18]. Jesus possesses to the fullest degree with none compared to him, the powers belonging to The King, who “has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but by his essence and nature.” The king’s mercy is boundless, extending from generation to generation [cf. Lk 1:50]. The opening prayer at the sacrifice of the Holy Mass for the twenty-sixth Sunday in ordinary time puts it succinctly; “O God who manifests your power above all by pardoning and showing mercy…” This is the sovereignty of the king who delights in showing mercy.
St. Teresa of Calcutta in one of her much esteemed quotes says; “It is a kingly act to assist the fallen.” These words sum up the interconnectedness of what we will be celebrating on the 20th of this month. The Psalmist makes it clear to us that ‘the Lord supports all who are falling and raises all who are bowed down’ [Ps 145:14]. The Lord himself is also king for he is robed in majesty [Ps 93:1]. This Lord and King is Jesus himself who like the Good Samaritan comes down from his horse to help the fallen man in Jericho and raises him from the ground unto a higher pedestal; he comes down from his glory to raise humanity from its degenerate state.
The celebration of the close of the Jubilee Year of Mercy on the day we will simultaneously acclaim Jesus as king is an avid expression of Bartimaeus’ action and a re-enactment of the saving event of the pitied man who fell into the hands of brigands in Jericho. Jesus who will walk through our towns, villages and streets demonstrates his very closeness to us: to dwell with us and to bestow the gift of his Mercy and Healing upon us. This is truly remarkable! All hail King Jesus; all hail the fountain of Divine Mercy!
God bless you.
+ Alfred Adewale Martins
Archbishop of Lagos
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